Steve Hansted, Product Manager of MAKEVR for Sixense Entertainment, discusses MAKEVR technology with Steve Waskul at SIGGRAPH 2014. MAKEVR is “a professional industry standard CAD-based modeling tool that has a ‘gameified’ two-handed interface as the user controller input,” says Hansted. Rather than using 2D interfaces (mouse and keyboard) to interact with 3D models, MAKEVR allows a modeler to use two tracked hands (3D interfaces) to manipulate things, resulting in a more intuitive and natural workflow for rapid prototyping. The computer software tracks the user’s movement as you grab the object, turn it, scale it, etc. with your own hands. Mr. Waskul watches carefully as Mr. Hansted mimes the workflow, but he wonders, how does the tracking work?
MAKEVR uses “6-inch stem trackers [that are] based on magnetic tracking technology and inertial trackers,” describes Steve Hansted. Then, “an embedder puts out a magnetic field to track the positional and rotational orientation” of the controllers in your hands. The trackers are wireless, so one could walk anywhere within the 20 ft. field. They can also be placed onto other devices such as a golf club, as Hansted mentions, “so you can practice your swing.” For the application in discussion, however, the trackers are placed into what are essentially game controllers. “The key with a virtual environment is being able to have full presence; you have to have your hands in there, interacting in a natural fashion,” declares Hansted. As virtual reality comes more and more into play, the traditional keyboard and mouse will become limiting as they require you to be stationary. With the controllers in your hands within a magnetic field with a 20 ft. radius, one could wear virtual reality goggles or a headset, and be able to generate a 3D world around you more naturally than if you were to be doing so at a station with a keyboard and mouse. Steve Waskul asks, if he were to build the Empire State Building, or New York City, could he scale those buildings to size around him in the virtual world?
A key feature to this technology is the scalability feature. You can swiftly explore building a city around you because, when you are in this virtual world, you can scale yourself, or rather, your avatar up very large, “and be planting buildings in Manhattan, or you could shrink yourself down to go inside the building and work on moving the furniture,” imagines Hansted. For a moment, the possibility of this strikes Mr. Waskul as something that would be “a very strange, but fascinating experience.” Mr. Hansted smiles, and adds that the software also allows for multiple user collaboration in the same 3D environment. Thus, a 3D modeler could bring in his or her client and they could interact as avatars to change and develop the product they are creating. It’s these scalable view point metaphors that allow for the rapid prototyping Hansted earlier alluded to.
“Experienced modelers that have their methods and their shortcuts first look at [MAKEVR] as a game, but then when they try it out…they realize how quickly they can do things, sweeping out shapes, scaling in and out…” Models that typically take an experienced modeler 45 minutes can be done “in under five minutes… It’s never going to replace their tools, but it’s going to be used for rapid prototyping. On the fly, in real time.”
Steve Waskul responds, “As someone who uses 3D intermittently, it sounds interesting – the ability to go inside and be so close, and turn around to look at things behind you,” and he wonders, “Do I save time? What’s the learning curve?”
“This interface is targeted for people who want to generate 3D content, but who don’t want to go through the large learning curve. It’s so natural, so intuitive because all you’re doing is literally reaching in and grabbing things with your hands. All in real-time,” Hansted replies. It’s so usable that even young children, six years old, can “learn just by doing it. They don’t even ask questions,” Hansted recalls from conducting numerous trials with a broad range of people. “The potential for education is really high,” he believes. A teacher could, for example, assign a group project where kids can collaborate on building a model, and they can explore the other group’s model in an almost real-life way.
MAKEVR is also targeted for people interested in 3D printing, but who lack the background in 3D modelling. Because the learning process is one that purportedly takes between five and twenty minutes to master, those people will be able to generate the 3D content they imagine without the need to learn extensive modelling. Hansted states that they are working with Shapeways 3D printing service, and the software will have an integrated button that, when you click on it, your model will be sent to Shapeways, who will print out the model and ship it back to you. “The next day it’s in your hands. The model can be real,” Hansted shares, and you can say, “I made this.”